In Conversation with Maidah Ahmad

Author of  'I Remember'

Can you tell me about your book?

My book is the first children's book on Muslim soldiers in World War One. The book is a letter between a grandchild and their great-grandfather. Since letters served as the primary means of communication between soldiers and their loved ones back home during World War 1, this particular writing style was adopted. Unfortunately, the British Army's strict censorship policies and the Indian soldiers' low literacy rates made it difficult to share their experiences. Additionally, because of the geopolitics of the time, an insufficient effort was made to compile the accounts of these war heroes; as a result, they were lost to history forever.

This book is first and foremost a sincere apology to the millions of soldiers of Indian and Muslim descent who gave their lives in battle and a reminder of how little we have done to memorialise their tale. The first sentence of each page begins with a child’s statement to reassure her great-grandpa that his story, his bravery, and his efforts have not been forgotten.

The follow-up question from the child represents those questions that families were unable to ask and went unanswered. The book aims to give a voice back to the voiceless. It is the beginning of a conversation we need to have to show we have remembered the stories of millions of fallen, forgotten, or even ignored heroes. The book also contains interesting facts as well as a treasure map of significant places to visit in the UK where you can learn more about the Muslim contribution to the War.

What inspired you to write this book?
My journey which resulted in the publication of this book began in 2019 when a famous Canadian Hockey commentator went on a rant on National TV berating new immigrants to Canada for not wearing a poppy. This motivated me to consider more carefully who was being remembered and by whom. I learnt that whilst we remember certain people and events others have been ignored or erased from history.

After conversations with Muslims and non-Muslims, it became clear that if we wanted to create a more inclusive and equitable future we would need to broaden the scope of our collective memory while also making it more historically accurate.

Why is reading this book important?
All children need to learn an accurate history where the contributions of others have helped create the freedom and democracy we find in the West. The book also attempts to create a sense of pride within Muslim youth, for them to learn of their ancestors' contributions and to make them feel valued. It is vital for Muslim youth to feel like they belong in the countries they call home and one way to achieve this is if they see their contributions recognised and highlighted.

Who is this book for?
This book is for everyone who is interested in a more inclusive and accurate history. It is for educators who are responsible for raising well-informed students and parents who want to teach their children the contributions Muslims made to the War effort.

What are some of the themes the book addresses?
Through the unidirectional dialogue between child and grandparent, we are reminded of the universal themes of loyalty, friendship, bravery and interreligious harmony which existed amongst soldiers from different backgrounds.

What was the most interesting thing you found during your research?
One in six Commonwealth soldiers along the Western Front during the First World War wore a turban, and yet despite this, I have not once come across school textbooks which showed turbaned soldiers. I also found it so amazing that Muslim soldiers continued to pray regularly, keep fasts and eat halal food during the extremely harsh conditions of War.


Maidah Ahmad

I Remember - A Recognition of Muslim Loyalty and Sacrifice in WW1


9780860378976 - Maidah Ahmad